IT Data Center Forecast: Cloudy With a Serious Chance of Failure


By Ariel Gordon
Serves on Evolven's Advisory Board, and is currently VP Products of Neebula and former CTO of BMC Software

Moving to a cloud environment, requires that you dedicate a full planning process,  since you need to place deployable packages of your applications in the cloud. Central to this planning is a complete understanding of all aspects of the application and its configuration.  That means gathering configuration information  no matter how minute. This is huge task, with literally thousands of configuration parameters per technology to account for – some critical and some not. Without handling this delicate process of collecting detailed configuration information, moving to a cloud environment could turn into a huge failure.  

This blog post will cover the process of "cloudification" of data centers and the essential steps involved for this effort.

IT is in a transition phase.  Still recuperating from the economic downturn and limited budgets,   the strained resources are pushing IT professionals to find innovative ways to take cost out of the infrastructure. Consolidation through virtualization has been a key initiative in most data centers, and this is the first step in going cloud.

The mobility of the virtualized infrastructure provides the base for the next big thing – cloud computing. For the first time in the history of IT, the IT infrastructure is mobile and hardware independent so it seems logical one could obtain IT Infrastructure on demand from "a utility" at a lower cost. This is the basis for the next phase in IT - cloudification.

So what still needs to happen until we see data centers capitalizing on external and internal clouds?  The answer is, simply,  a whole lot. We lack tools for deployment, management, data migration and security. There are also organizational changes that need to occur, and since we would benefit the most from  "cloudifying"  our old application we need tools that provide deep understanding of our applications, their configuration and what differences the source application presents to the target.


4 Steps in Taking the Data Center to Cloud

There are 4 major steps for cloudfication of a data center.  Though it looks like cloud implementations are escalating , the reality is that things are much slower than it seems, and to understand why lets review the 4 phases of cloudification.
1)    The first phase is just server consolidation using virtualization. This is carried out first for  non-critical systems, i.e. standard development systems, test systems and then for production systems.  At this point the data center is still static and virtualization's movement capability is not utilized or is used only for recovery purposes. This has been about moving 1 to 1, like taking the application from a single computer environment, or from a multiple server environment to a single server running many applications in order to save resources.  About 85% of the customers I have spoken to are at this stage.
2)    The second phase in the creation of a dynamic data center is trying to leverage the dynamic capabilities that virtualization provides by activating features like VM-Ware DRS which allow for migration of VM's based on resource usage. In an application's lifecycle, a particular application may need more resources than another, depending on the time of day or time of year. These needs can be addressed, allowing you to leverage the same infrastructure... and that's where the cloud environment comes into play. Most of the other 15%  customers I have spoken to are at this stage.
3)    The third phase is the creation of a real cloud. In this stage sometimes there is an organizational change where the cloud management infrastructure team is separated  from the  for the technical and organizational aspects of the infrastructure.  In this phase the ease of creation and deployment of VM's is utilized, application components are packaged as VAPPS so that they can be deployed upon request of the application owner. The deployment could be on an internal VM infrastructure or even an external infrastructure such as  Amazon EC2. The main benefit of this stage is agility that allows for instant  allocation of additional resources to an application in order to handle an expected spike, like from  a marketing campaign.
4)    The forth stage of cloudification is when full applications that contain a number of VM's and applications are packed together, with a meta model of the deployment policy of the application.  Once deployed the cloud will take care of each application component and see to it that the service policy is adhered to, adding more resources based on the policy in order to ensure that the service policy is met.  The deployment could be on the internal or external cloud based on financial and security considerations.

While speaking to customers, I found out that today only a very small number of leading companies are In the initial stages of  phase 3. The majority of companies are usually either at the first phase where they haven't even fully implemented server consolidation, and only 15% of the customers I have spoken to are at the second phase where they already consolidated, but have not yet realized a fully dynamic environment.  One of the major roadblocks to moving to stage 3 is lack of detailed knowledge of the application, its configuration and dependencies. Before packaging the application in a VM, an analysis stage must be undertaken in order to understand how the move to a VM should be done. configuration management tools that take a deep dive into the application configuration will make the difference for this phase.  

Application Knowledge: A Requirement Before Going Cloud

What will enable your enterprise to cloudify? To be able to cloudify applications, you need detailed configuration information of your applications.  You need to understand all the application components , there relationships and you need to be able to understand and identify what are the application's configuration parameters that will need to be updated in order to configure the application when moving them to cloud.
Gathering the essential, configuration information critical for the creation of a clound is a huge undertaking, with literally thousands of configuration parameters per technology – some critical and some not.
Today this information gathering process is largely manual, only modern configuration tools from vendors such as Evolven can greatly reduce the time it takes to gather this information and change management for packaging the application.  

How are you going cloud?

In this post we explored one of the critical processes for "cloudification", how are you going to 'cloud' your applications?



About  Ariel Gordon

Ariel Gordon has had a long and successful career in the software industry. . As Chief Technology Officer at BMC Software Inc., he was responsible for the creation of BMC's Business Service Management (BSM) strategy and enabling technologies, such as the Atrium Integration infrastructure. This technology was adopted by all BMC's major competitors and is now a leading force in the system management industry. Prior to BMC, Ariel held several key senior positions at New Dimension Software, which was acquired by BMC, including Vice President of R&D and CTO. Ariel is currently an independent strategic advisor to various leading companies in the Enterprise Management industry,  is VP of Product at Neebula.
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